The EM Drive

In about 2001 or so, reports began to surface about a new kind of thruster for a spacecraft. This thruster was said to produce a slight push in a way that violated the law of Conservation of Momentum. Despite this difficulty, there were experiments which seemed to support the possibility that the thruster worked.

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The Dogon Tribe

There is a tribe in Western Africa known as the Dogon people. They have a tradition of having been visited by beings who taught them various skills. The Dogons explain that these beings come from the sky, from a star we know as Sirius. The Dogons explain that this star is actually two stars, one of which cannot be seen. One star circles the other.

Much is made of this astronomical knowledge. How can the Dogons, without telescopes or other scientific equipment, know about Sirius? Even Western science didn’t know of Sirius until just over a hundred years ago. Surely this is clear proof of aliens.

Yes, it’s possible that aliens came and told the Dogons about Sirius, and then the Dogons taught this knowledge to their young. But it’s not likely.

Does it not seem more likely that some explorer happened to mention that Sirius – a bright star readily recognized by the tribe – is a double star?

Someone told the Dogons. The question is whether it was aliens, or earthly explorers who happened to encounter the tribe.

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Cooper Family Falling Body

This refers to a photograph purportedly taken by the father of a family. The story is that when the father developed the image, he was horrified to see that a hanging body appeared. They state that the hanging body wasn’t present at the time the photo was taken.

I’m not sure why they felt it necessary to claim that the body wasn’t there when they took the photograph. I would think that, had it been there, they might have been a bit more upset than they appear in the photo. But never mind.

This is clearly a fraud. The way the image is framed makes room for the hanging body. Had there not been a body – or had the father not seen it – then the photo would frame the four people in the center. The father made room for the body, which meant he shifted the camera so that the family appeared on one side.

This appears to be an amateurish attempt to create a mysterious, maybe even horrifying photo. It’s fun, but not to be taken seriously. In the days before the GIMP this might have required much effort; but it’s clear that the focus of the image was not the family.

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Faster Than Light Neutrinos

In 2011, researchers at CERN reported that some neutrinos appeared to travel faster than the speed of light.

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Tools and Rules

These are some basic principles I use to help sort through the various topics and suggested explanations. Using them can simplify discussions.

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The Fermi Paradox

The Fermi paradox is the observation that, although there are billions upon billions of stars, we have not discovered any evidence of intelligent life. The question is, “Why not?”

Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi

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The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Briefly, the Dunning-Kruger (DK) effect is the erroneous self-assessment of skill, knowledge, or other qualities in a field that is not the person’s area of expertise. This can be laymen grappling with an unfamiliar discipline, or experts who have strayed from their own fields into others. The DK effect is partly due to the person not knowing enough to understand the difficulties and complexities of the unfamiliar field.


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Conspiracy Theories


Conspiracy theories strike me as an attempt to hold on to a cherished idea when there is insufficient evidence to support it. Rather than consider that the idea is wrong, a person clings to it and invents reasons to explain the lack of evidence.

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Cottingley Fairies

Before There Was Photoshop

In 1917, two girls borrowed their father’s camera and took some photos in their back yard. When the photos were developed, they showed several fairies dancing and playing in the yard as the girls looked on. For the first time there was photographic evidence that fairies exist.

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Cold Fusion

In 1989, chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann reported that they had achieved cold fusion. “Cold fusion” refers to a type of nuclear reaction that takes place at temperatures far below the several million degrees that are usually required for the reaction. It’s not known whether cold fusion is possible. When the report came out it garnered enormous media attention. Fusion would be a source of cheap and relatively safe energy. Any process that could generate fusion energy – cold or otherwise – is big news.

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